I belong to the 7x generation, born in the subsidy period, when every household lacked food and clothing. Meat and eggs were very luxurious.
Both my parents were state officials, who would hang a pair of rice baskets on their bicycle handlebars and go to work every morning. One summer day, while my mother was still getting ready, I took the opportunity to climb onto the bike to practice walking. The bike was too high for me, causing me to wobble and fall. The rice basket flew out, a few pieces of vegetables and tomatoes fell to the ground. Hearing the noise, my mother rushed out, picked me up, then picked up the tomatoes, wiped off the dust, and neatly arranged them back into the rice basket.
Our family meals were usually simple. My parents studied abroad and returned home, the most valuable things were gradually sold to cover expenses when the family had matters. My mother was assigned by her agency to take care of a warehouse, which included all kinds of rare and hard-to-buy items at that time. Mom said there were units that came to buy goods, clipping a few coins into the voucher as a thank you. “When Mom saw the money, she trembled and returned it immediately.”
According to my mother, most people around lived like that: carefree, not profitable, not greedy for public property. There were high-ranking officials at that time who were willing to give up larger housing quotas for larger families. Many people refused car standards, ready to ride bicycles to work.
Everyone was poor but people knew how to live with each other. Moreover, the legal regulations of that period were not as strict and severe as now but if detected receiving a few dozen chicken eggs as a “thank you” gift could also be criticized by the organization, even disciplined.
I believe that the educational environment and family foundation have a significant impact on each individual’s ability to adjust behavior. In a society with a high level of education, behavior adjustment by morality is voluntary and sometimes has stronger prevention against wrongdoing than even the coercion of law.
At my son’s school, parents still tell each other a story illustrating the quality of education at school: students seeing garbage bags on the road will voluntarily take them to throw in the bin because if they close their eyes and pass by, they will feel guilty. Clearly, thorough education about community spirit, about awareness of standard behavior has higher reminders than the sign “no littering”.
When I was still working in journalism, I once interviewed Finnish Ambassador Kari Alanko. Finland always ranks among the top countries rated as “cleanest” by Transparency International (TI). In 2022, Finland ranked second while Vietnam ranked 77th in terms of Corruption Perception Index (CPI), among 180 countries rated. A civil servant receiving an airline ticket for vacation from a business is unacceptable in Finland; officials from department heads upwards must disclose all assets and relationships with partners.
In addition to legal punishment, Mr. Alanko also emphasized the role of moral education in shaping human life culture and social behavior capacity. “Trust is more important than legal condemnation. An individual found involved in corruption, whether heavy or light will completely lose public trust,” he shared.
Clearly, moral pillars and social norms have strong behavior adjustment values. Social contracts help prevent behaviors that harm communities or lead to legal consequences. In a rule-of-law society, everyone will have to give up certain freedoms and personal interests in exchange for maintaining social order and enjoying a civilized life.
Law is certainly an essential tool for state and social management. Resolution 27 issued by the Party Central Committee last year set a goal to make the supremacy of the Constitution and law become the standard of conduct for all subjects in society by 2030. This emphasizes the construction of a fair, transparent, and strict legal system, along with ensuring the independence and law-abiding operation of the court system.
However, cultivating a society with strong moral pillars and progressive social norms, which help prevent the seeds of criminal behavior from within, is equally important. A society that values dignity will form officials who do not intentionally confuse bribes with thank you gifts, citizens and businesses that do not use money to distort order and regulations.
Correct behaviors that are continuously inherited will become community values, helping to improve the country’s position on world rankings.
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Sharing and Dignity